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New England Literary News

Poems of the real

“I don’t write/ about the kind of love you want mentioned at weddings,” writes Vermont-based poet Lizzy Fox in her debut collection “Red List Blue” (Finishing Line). And in its honesty, in its matter-of-factness of the mess and tangle, maybe she’s right. And this is for the best. “I don’t wish/ for cheer. Just coffee. A little time/ to myself, perhaps warming/ my hands by the fire.” In one highlight, she moves from a gift-shop trinket, a painted stone carved in the shape of a heart, to rivers, cliffs, the ocean, time, to great gaping loss; it’s a stunning condensation. Fox does well detailing the various wavelengths of anxiety and its speeded-up-heart-rate rhythms. There is the real world in these poems — nachos, meteors, whales, “I ate all the french fries without you” — and moments that edge deceptively close to mystery: “I have the same fantasy over and over: the animals come back.” There is something straightforward and alive about Fox’s lines, an exuberance tempered now and then by harder truths and inevitable loss, making the moments of strange joy all the more luminous.

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Innovation station

A city can rise from the ashes as the result of its commitment to innovation, something that Robert M. Krim and Alan R. Earls show in their new book, “Boston Made: From Revolution to Robotics, Innovations That Changed the World” (Imagine). Krim founded and leads the Boston History and Innovation Collaborative, a group that looks at world-changing innovations and inventions born in the Boston area, and their research resulted in a permanent exhibit at Logan highlighting “Four Centuries of Innovation.” Krim and Earls remind readers what a hotbed Boston is for new technologies, and how it’s been so for hundreds of years. The first organ transplant, the first public school, the invention of the telephone, not to mention numerous breakthroughs in genetics, medicine, and robotics — Krim and Earls walk through 50 inventions that have altered history. Krim points to an emphasis on local funding, robust entrepreneurship, and a buzzing network of thinkers and doers as reasons Boston continues to be a site of breakthroughs. And besides neat did-you-know facts, they show how Boston’s ongoing incubation of world-changing ideas and technologies helps the city bounce back from depressions.

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A massive milestone

Prolific and multi-award-winning children’s book author Jane Yolen, who lives in Hatfield, is about to reach another career milestone: On March 2, Yolen’s 400th book will hit shelves. In “Bear Outside” (Neal Porter), a bear serves as protective armor for a young girl who imagines she wears the animal as she moves about her life. “She keeps out the howls, the growls. She keeps me safe.” It’s a sensitive illustration of drawing on inner strength to find courage when things feel iffy or uncomfortable, in major or minor ways — with confronting bullies, or getting called on in class. Providence-based Jen Corace’s gentle illustrations support the atmosphere Yolen creates. Yolen, 82, has won the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Awards, the World Fantasy Award, and has been granted honorary degrees from six universities, as her singular career in children’s book writing continues.

Coming out

We Do This ‘Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justiceby Mariame Kaba and Tamara K. Nopper (Haymarket)

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The Delusions of Crowds: Why People Go Mad in Groupsby William J. Bernstein (Atlantic Monthly)

Abundanceby Jakob Guanzon (Graywolf)

Pick of the week

Nicole Dahlmer at the Gloucester Bookstore recommends “Empire of Wild” by Cherie Dimaline (William Morrow): “Cherie Dimaline’s novel is a surprising favorite! Dimaline weaves Indigenous folklore, contemporary issues, and relationships — both familial and intimate — in a masterful way. Main character Joan is raw, sarcastic, and fully human.”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.